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Are Weight Loss Supplements Worth the Risks?

By HERWriter
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Diets related image Photo: Getty Images

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that about one-third of all adults in the United States and around 17 percent of children and teens are obese. If your goal is to lose weight, you may be tempted to turn to diet supplements to help you drop the pounds. But many diet supplements don’t live up to their claims, and some are even harmful to your health.

Diet supplements for weight loss are available in grocery stores, health food stores, drug stores, and online. They are sold as pills, capsules, liquids, and bars. But just because a product is available in stores or online does not mean it is safe or effective.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that using diet supplements can be harmful to your health. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements. This means what the label claims and what is actually inside the bottle may be very different.

Here are some warning signs the FDA has suggested to watch for that probably mean the product can’t live up to its claims:

• Too much too fast: products that claim you can lose “10 pounds in a week” are probably not safe.
• Key words: “guaranteed” or “scientific breakthrough” should set off mental warnings.
• Foreign language used in marketing or on the label
• Mass emails as a marketing tool
• Claiming to be an herbal alternative to an FDA-approved drug
• Claiming similar results as a prescription drug

Weight loss supplements sold over-the-counter (OTC) often claim to help control hunger to help you eat less. Hoodia is an herbal product that is sold as a hunger suppressant despite lack of scientific evidence that it works, or that it is safe. Chromium or chromium picolinate is generally considered to be safe, but also has not been shown to help decrease appetite. (about.com)

One diet supplement available over-the-counter that has received FDA approval is orlistat (brand name Alli). This product blocks the body’s ability to absorb fat. But the potential side effects may be uncomfortable or even embarrassing.

Dieters using the supplement must strictly limit the amount of fat in their diets. If you eat too much fat while taking Alli you may end up with loose or liquid stools and may even lose control of bowel movements.

Even weight loss supplements available only by prescription cannot guarantee weight loss success. Responding to a systematic review of dietary supplements, the American Dietetic Association (ADA), which is now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, stated that there is “no evidence that any specific dietary supplement is effective in reducing body weight.”

As with all supplements, the decision whether or not to use supplements for weight loss is a personal choice. If you are considering diet supplements, read labels carefully and do your research to be sure the product is safe. Talk to your healthcare provider for advice and to make sure there are no interactions between the supplement and any prescription medications you may be taking.


American Dietetic Association. Ethics Opinion: Weight Loss Products and Medications. Web. January 15, 2012.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overweight and Obesity: US Obesity Trends. Web. January 15, 2012.

US Food and Drug Administration. FDA 202: Dietary Supplements. Web. January 15, 2012.

US Food and Drug Administration. Weight Loss Fraud. Web. January 15, 2012.

US Food and Drug Administration. Beware of Fraudulent Weight-Loss ‘Dietary Supplements’. Web. January 15, 2012.

About.com: Weight Loss. Weight Loss Pills and Supplements. Malia Frey. Web. January 15, 2012.

Mayo Clinic. Weight loss. Web. January 15, 2012.

Reviewed January 16, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I think it would be worth the risk if it does give results like what I have gotten from 3 months of using prescopodene. Not all pills being marketed are bad for the heath because some of the pills give fantastic results.

June 30, 2013 - 8:37pm
EmpowHER Guest

Not all pills are bad for you. I agree that with the right combinations of weight loss ingredients, losing weight is inevitable. However, results may be different from person to the next. It's just a matter of knowing what works for you. How to? Ask a doctor like I did. I was given this Prescopodene and my life has never been the same.

June 18, 2013 - 9:06pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I think that depends on the body type you have. I understand that not all diet pills could bring about the same result to two different users. As they say, what works for you may not work for others. Congrats though, for finding the right pill for you. It's actually a tough challenge to search for one diet pill that works considering that most available in the market are considerably fake. Your right, asking an expert is a much sound advice when your on a quest for the right diet pill to take. Thanks!

July 5, 2013 - 6:50am
EmpowHER Guest

I got on the Alli weight loss supplement about 5 months ago and have lost nearly 40 pounds. I have never looked or felt better. Doc says blood pressure is 120/75 and my heart rate is a strong 75. I think Alli is not only safe bu effective. When I started my plan I looked around a lot for reviews and places to get the pills. I found SecretGut.com was very helpful. They have reviews on a few different products, but most importantly it talked about how safe Alli was, so I persoanlly didn't feel there was any risk when I started with the pills.

February 9, 2012 - 3:25pm
EmpowHER Guest

The best scenario is watching your diet and exercising, there is no "magic pill" that will work by itself. There is a product/pill which contains Tonalin CLA and that ingredient works by decreasing the size and number of fat cells, it also increase the rate at which fatty acids are turned into energy. Taking this combined with diet and exercise will assist with weight loss.
Read this article for additional information:

January 16, 2012 - 7:35pm
EmpowHER Guest

The problem is that so many of these "diet pills" aren't regulated and come from places like China where basically anything goes just to get a buck. Its dangerous to put your life on the line like that. There are so many other better options available. I have listed some on my site if you're interested.

While its great to share diets meals like this I don't believe they are of much value. Most people simply don't have the right understanding of how the body works to fully appreciate the value of these meals. My weight loss program tells me that education is the real key to successfully losing weight and keeping it off.

I've personally lost 180lbs since Dec 2009. My blood pressure was 160/110, now its 120/80. My cholesterol was 256 mg/Ld, now its 176mg/dL. I'm no longer Pre-Diabetic and I'm in the best shape of my life. I believe it is do-able by anyone.

If you're interested in my story please head over to Zdiets.net


Ryan E. Parker

January 16, 2012 - 6:59am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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